This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of my son’s death. It doesn’t seem like a year ago; it feels like last week. The heartbreak of losing a loved one doesn’t fade away after the first year. Most of you know that.
I told my daughter I wanted one of those little white memorial stickers for the rear window of my car. She bought me two – one says “Beloved Son,” one is to honor my mother, who died the year before. They’re beautiful.
When my husband asked why I put them on the tiny rear window of the new car, I had to ask myself the same question. Why do I need to remind myself of these two gut-wrenching deaths? Was I looking for sympathy from the rest of the world? Do I need to remind the people who know me that I’ve suffered great loss and say, “Oh, you poor thing?” Is that what I was going for?
It took several days before I could answer that question for myself. Is my “rolling tombstone,” as Allison Engel of the New York Times calls such decals, a cry for sympathy? I don’t think so. I’m not a fan of sympathy. It ruins my one-tough-cookie image (though turning 60 proved to be a tough-cookie crusher.) Besides, I can’t think of a single person my age who hasn’t suffered great loss, so there’s nothing special in the suffering.
The truth is that I didn’t feel the need for a memorial sticker for my mom. Nancy Varner will be remembered for at least 60 years. She left an impression on her community, her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She left photo albums of travels and friendships that span the world. She left houses and flowerbeds and recipes that were immortal. Mom left a legacy of laughter, memories, and a long, well-lived life.
My son did not. He was gone too soon, without the legacy of written words to share his reflections on life, works of art he created, houses he had built, photos of world travels, or children of his own. He left before realizing his dream to help troubled teens or win the ultimate shooting tournament.
He had several close circles of friends, competition buds, and people who remember him as a guy who was always willing to lend a helping hand. He had the silliest laugh and what can only be accurately called a shitty grin.
I want the world to remember the little boy who thought “Lamborghini” was a swear word, who moved at the speed of a snail, who loved to tear things apart but hated putting them back together, who begged to plow a driveway so he could drive the big tractor.
If you’d ever met my mother, you would not likely forget her. And I won’t allow you to forget my grinning, brutal bear-hugging son. If you do, I’ll pull my little blue car in front of yours and drive slow enough for you to read the sign: In Loving Memory – Ronald D. Guyer – Beloved Son – Always in my Heart.